Sheikh Ahmad denies links to $1.4m bribery case

KUWAIT CITY • Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah yesterday denied links to a US$1 million (S$1.4 million) bribery case as the latest Fifa corruption scandal threatened one of the most influential figures in world sport.

The Kuwaiti, president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) among a string of other roles, said that he "strongly denies any wrongdoing" after he was named as a co-conspirator of disgraced Guam football chief Richard Lai.

Lai, 55, pleaded guilty in New York last week to receiving nearly US$1 million in bribes from football officials wanting his help to influence world body Fifa and gain control of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah is aware of the media speculations concerning alleged payments made to Richard Lai who is being investigated by US authorities for tax and other alleged violations," the OCA statement issued on behalf of the Kuwaiti said.

"Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing.

"He will vigorously defend his integrity and reputation and that of any organisation that he represents in any relevant legal review."

As well as heading the OCA, which oversees the Asian Games among other events, Sheikh Ahmad sits on the Fifa Council and is president of the 206-member Association of National Olympic Committees.

He is also a member of the AFC's executive committee as was the now-suspended Lai, whose rap sheet includes taking a US$100,000 bribe to vote for Mohamed Hammam, of Qatar, in Fifa's 2011 presidential election.

According to reports, Sheikh Ahmad, a former Kuwaiti oil minister and a current International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, lobbied on behalf of Thomas Bach when he was elected president of the IOC in 2013.

He is also considered a close ally of AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, who was elected in 2013 after his predecessor, Hammam, was banned from football for alleged corruption.

Lai, Guam's football chief since 2001, was suspended by Fifa and the AFC after he admitted accepting bribes between 2009 and 2014.

A US investigation has seen federal prosecutors indict around 40 football and sports marketing executives for allegedly receiving tens of millions of bribes and kickbacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Sheikh Ahmad denies links to $1.4m bribery case'. Print Edition | Subscribe